Speaker: David Sabaj Stahl, of Edwin James International
Often, ecological restoration is conducted without any subsequent biomonitoring. The absence of monitoring prohibits the evaluation of restoration benchmarks, thus precluding any objective assessment of restoration protocols. The reasons cited for not monitoring restoration projects are many, including insufficient planning, funds, time and/or trained staff to conduct these field assessments. Further complicating the issue are decisions to carry out qualitative v. quantitative biomonitoring protocols. While it might seem qualitative approaches obviate most, if not all biomonitoring impediments relating to time, training and budgets; qualitative data often fail to answer even the most simplistic of research questions. Thus, quantitative data should be gathered where and whenever possible, for they provide a vastly more powerful means to test any variety of hypotheses.
The elements of planning, funding, time, training and quantification were identified as key criteria in the development of a unique and rapid vegetative biomonitoring tool for the evaluation of riparian restoration benchmarks. While the initial season of biomonitoring was both labor intensive and costly, these efforts bore the desired fruit: i.e., the Priority Site Determination (PSD). Exhaustive analyses of these data revealed that it was appropriate to monitor just 13, one-acre sites for the quantification of biodiversity, bio-invasion, ecologically relevant communities, and species of interest, for a riparian ecosystem stretching for hundreds of miles and across two western United States. In the end, the procurement of a highly quantitative set of data from a select group of study sites far outweighed the alternative of gathering qualitative data from a much larger pool of study sites. The PSD not only fulfilled contractual obligations to generate a biomonitoring protocol as promised, but it is a fluid system enabling investigators to apply this monitoring system in diverse contexts, and in a timely and efficient manner.